New York, NY (Monday, June 29, 2009)—New York Law School Professors Deborah Archer and Elise Boddie are available to offer expert commentary on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, in which firefighters sued the City of New Haven, Connecticut for discrimination.
“Today the Supreme Court found that the City of New Haven violated a federal civil rights statute barring intentional discrimination in employment when it rejected test results that disproportionately favored white candidates,” Professor Boddie said. “The City took this step based on its concern that the test might have been unlawful under another provision of the same federal statute, given its severe negative impact on the minority candidates who also took the exam. In resolving the case on statutory grounds, the Court was able to avoid the constitutional question in the case.”
On behalf of the New York Law School Racial Justice Project, Professors Archer and Boddie filed an amicus curiae brief in Ricci v. DeStefano, defending the City of New Haven’s decision to suspend the results of a civil service promotion exam that adversely affected racial minorities. The case raised two novel and important issues: first, whether the City’s race-conscious decision not to use the test results violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and, second, whether the City’s consideration of race in an attempt to avoid possible Title VII liability was a federal constitutional violation.
“The Supreme Court’s decision today is both bad and good news for employers who are concerned about ensuring a fair employment process and equal opportunity,” Professor Boddie said. “The bad news is that the Court has limited the options that employers may pursue when they are caught between a rock and a hard place—faced with test results that seem to heavily favor white candidates at the expense of minority candidates. Employers may not reject test results that skew promotional opportunities in favor of white candidates unless they have pretty good evidence that the exam itself is flawed. The good news is that employers may still generally take race-conscious measures to promote equal opportunity in the employment process.”
Professor Deborah N. Archer directs the Racial Justice Project at New York Law School’s Justice Action Center. Previously, she worked at Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett as a litigation associate and also performed pro bono work on behalf of political asylum seekers and battered women. She was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she was involved in a number of important cases regarding employment discrimination, education, and voting rights.
Professor Elise C. Boddie is an expert in civil rights litigation and teaches Constitutional Law. She entered academia after practicing civil rights litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., where she was an associate director of litigation and directed LDF’s Education Program. She has litigated at the trial and appellate levels in the areas of employment, affirmative action, school desegregation, and economic justice and has argued in both the Eighth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. She has appeared on C-SPAN, Court TV with Catherine Crier, CNBC, as well as several radio programs and online discussions and has been a frequent lecturer in topics concerning race and civil rights.
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